December 25, 2011

SRI LANKA: Aging Parents A Burden To Some Children

RATMALANA, Sri Lanka / The Sunday Leader / Opinion / December 25, 2011

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”
William Shakespeare, King Lear

By Nirmala Kannangara 

Sanhinda elder’s home and
Sumana Weerasinghe, 72
Today is Christmas Day – a very special day to show love and compassion towards all beings.

For parents whether they are rich or not, this is the time they think more about their children than themselves and try to provide the best for their children.

So why is it that once they grow up, many children find that caring for their aging parents is a burden?

The number of elders’ homes is increasing in the country indicating that more and more children are unwilling or unable to care for their parents in their own homes.

The Sunday Leader visited Sanhinda Elders’ Home in Pita Kotte and spoke to a few occupants and these are their stories.

Although Mallika Senanayake (76) was happy in the company of the other occupants, her eyes filled with tears when she talked about her life- the good old days. Her heartache began after the death of her beloved husband. 

She said, “I should not be spending the latter part of my life in an elders’ home. My husband provided me with all the comforts and ensured life interest for me in our family home. Our house was gifted to our younger son, but both he and his wife ill-treated me after my husband’s death. We have two sons and lived at Epitamulla in Pita Kotte. My husband was an Accountant in a private firm and my sons studied at a leading Buddhist school in Colombo. Her elder son is living overseas. On hearing about Mrs. Senanayake’s suffering, her sister took her to her residence and later at the request of Mrs. Senanayake her sister placed her in the elders’ home.

She summed up her heartbreak by saying, “If this is my destiny I have to face what life places before me. At least I am happy to have given birth to my elder son who is very concerned about me. He calls me often and visit me whenever he is in town,” she said. But as only a mother would, she still loves her younger son, although he has forgotten his obligations to his mother.

Sumana Weerasinghe (72) of Rajagiriya too had to come to Sanhinda Elders’ Home since her children have failed to look after her.

“I have a son and a daughter. My daughter lives with her in-laws and I was living with my son. I was left alone all the time and they did not bother to take care of me. They even did not send their children to see me which hurt me immensely. Since I could not bear the ill-treatment and loneliness I asked my sister to put me into a elders’ home and I am very happy to have come to this home where I have loving and supportive friends, she added.

When asked whether her children visit her, Mrs. Weerasinghe said that her daughter comes whenever she can but not her son.

Nanda Dep (75) is unmarried and has lived with her sister after the demise of their parents.

“I am very happy that I looked after my parents and that was why I could not get married. I have spent all my money offering alms in memory of my beloved parents. After their death I lived with my sister and when she passed on I came here,” she said.

Edwin Perera Gunasena (89) was a Civil Servant. He stays in private quarters at Sanhinda Elders Home. “I have four daughters and two sons. Two are Doctors (Ph.D), one is a Lawyer and the other is an Accountant. One daughter is a Professor in Peradeniya University and lives in Kandy and the rest are in the US and Australia. I have travelled all over the world and now I am confined to this room,” said Gunasena.
When asked as to whether he wish to be with his children he said that he wishes so but does not want to trouble them. “Even when I was admitted to Durdans Hospital during a cardiac arrest, it was my nephew who was with me right throughout. My son in the US and one daughter from Australia visited me but my daughter living in Kandy did not come to see me. I think she may be busy with her research work and that is why she could not come to see me. But she pays my ‘home’ bill,” claimed Gunasena.

Joy Perera is yet another father who is spending his winter years in this elders’ home. He regrets giving all his properties to his only child, his son, without keeping life interest.

“My son was an obedient child. He got married of his own wish and wanted me to transfer the house to his name to apply for a loan. Since my son and daughter-in-law were so caring I did not have any doubts but wrote the deed without keeping life interest. That was where I went wrong,” he said with deep sorrow.
According to Perera, he was ill-treated by his son and daughter-in-law and if not for his nephew – a high ranking CID officer he would have committed suicide long ago.

“My wife is well looked after as she is their baby sitter. If not for that my son would have chased her out as well. I am not trying to take legal action against my son and get back my property. My wife visited me twice with some money which my son had given, but I did not accept a cent as I do not want anything from them,” said this grieving father.

F. N. Abeywickrema is the father of a famous singer in the country. Despite the strong messages Abeywickrema’s vocalist son gives to society through his songs, his hypocrisy is evident through the neglect of his father.

“My eldest son is a singer and because he ill-treated me I went to my second son after my wife’s death. He took all my money promising to return it but did not and asked to me leave his house,” he said. According to Abeywickrema, he has given instructions to Sanhinda Elder’s Home about his final rites.

“My children should not be informed of my death and my body should be handed over immediately to the medical college. I do not want any of my children to see my corpse as there is no necessity for that. If they could not look after their father when he is alive what is the purpose of showing them a dead body?” asked Abeywickrema.

Bertil Ranasinghe is yet another occupant living in paying quarters. He is unmarried and waiting to see his younger brother on Christmas Day.

“I am waiting for him today. I am a Catholic and studied at St. Joseph’s College Colombo and a classmate of Prof. Carlo Fonseka,” he said.

Although Ranasinghe is waiting to see his brother today (Christmas Day) he is not aware that his brother is no more in this world. But he is expecting to see the brother and has many plans to go to England with him like in the old days when he used to travel to the UK very often.

All the occupants of the Sanhinda Elder’s Home, (both paying and non-paying) are looked after very well there. The occupants are full of praise for the management for providing the best of everything for them. The tidy halls and the well-maintained lawns speak volumes as to how these elderly persons are looked after.
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